Company said it won't use info for targeted advertising and will revise services agreement to make that clear
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/22/2012 3:04:25 PM
In a letter Monday following a New York Times story on the changes, Markey said he was concerned about the privacy implications of allowing the company to follow users across Web services like Hotmail and Bing, collect personal information, and then use it to target advertising. Microsoft said Monday it will not use that info for advertising.
"I am concerned about the privacy and security implications of Microsoft's new policy of aggregating information about consumers across a suite of Microsoft services, stitching together detailed, in-depth consumer profiles," Markey wrote in the letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
"I have long endorsed a standard that allows consumers to affirmatively decide whether to permit collection of their personal information and targeting of advertisements. However, Friday's announcement leaves many questions unanswered about whether and to what extent consumers will be able to opt-in to information sharing across Microsoft's many Web-based products, whether they will have to opt out of such sharing, or whether they will have no choice at all in the matter."
Markey wants the answers, "no later than Nov. 13, to a number of questions, including:
How and when did the company notify consumers about the changes contained in the Service Agreement?
What are the Web-based products that are impacted by the new Service Agreement?
Under the new Service Agreement, how will Microsoft share information between Web-based products?
Will Microsoft use the information that is shared across Web-based products to target advertisements, or do existing privacy policies and the new Service Agreement and permit the information that is shared between products to be used for targeting advertising purposes" [The question Microsoft answers below].
Will consumers be provided a choice to opt-out of information sharing between Microsoft's Web-based products?
Will information collected about children and teens be shared across Web-based products and will they have different opt-in and opt-out options?"
Microsoft had one answer immediately. It won't use info for targeted ads, the company said, and will adjust its revised services agreement to make that clear..
"One thing we don't do is use the content of our customers' private communications and documents to target advertising," the company said. "However, we recognize we could have been clearer about this when we rolled out our updated services agreement. We appreciate the feedback we've received, and as a result, we will update the agreement as soon as possible to make that point absolutely clear."
"The recent update we announced to the Microsoft Service Agreement did not alter our existing privacy policies, which have been publicly available online for more than a decade," the company said. "It also did not change the fact that over the years we have consistently informed users that we may use their content to improve the services they receive. For instance, we analyze content to improve our spam and malware filters in order to keep customers safe. We also do it to develop new product features such as email categorization to organize similar items like shipping receipts in a common folder, or to automatically add calendar invitations."
Markey is cosponsor of a bill that would disallow online tracking of kids for marketing purposes and also provide a "delete" button that parents could use to expunge information their kids had shared online, but shouldn't have.
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